biglebowskiLast Heartthrob Chapter Three:

Did My Heart Skip a Beat?

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Movie: The Big Lebowski (1998)

This episode of Last Heartthrob refers directly to our memorable introduction to The Dude. Tom Kahane also has an unusual reaction to a drink, althought this time it's not a White Russian but a Sailor's Tattoo. Also, the City of Roses is as central to Last Heartthrob as the City of Angels is to The Big Lebowski.

No exploration of film noir would be complete without Raymond Chandler. So why is this episode's movie The Big Lebowski, not The Big Sleep?

If you're looking for a P. I., you might go with Philip Marlowe, but admit it, wouldn't you rather hang with "The Dude?"

"When The Big Lebowski was released in 1998, Ethan and Joel Coen claimed its 'episodic' narrative structure found its source in the work of Raymond Chandler. In this super-sized double-feature podcast, Richard and Shannon examine The Big Lebowski against Howard Hawks's 1946 noir The Big Sleep, and both films against Chandler's 1939 novel The Big Sleep. Beyond their similar narrative structures, these works all present consummate dialogue, a panoply of memorable characters, and crimes and anxieties impossible to imagine outside Los Angeles--the city of angels, and noir." – Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir Podcast

Discussion:

Philip Marlowe vs. The Dude.

Raymond Chandler wrote: "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness."

The Coen Brothers wrote: "Some - times there's a man--I won't say a hee-ro, 'cause what's a hee-ro?--but sometimes there's a man...And I'm talkin' about the Dude here-- sometimes there's a man who, wal, he's the man for his time'n place, he fits right in there--and that's the Dude, in Los Angeles....and even if he's a lazy man, and the Dude was certainly that--quite possibly the laziest in Los Angeles County...which would place him high in the runnin' for laziest worldwide--but sometimes there's a man...sometimes there's a man. Wal, I lost m'train of thought here. But--aw hell, I done innerduced him enough."

Do you prefer the straight or satirical approach to the type of character Raymond Chandler describes?

The City of Angels.

DUDE: Look, I've got certain information, certain things have come to light, and uh, has it ever occurred to you, man, that given the nature of all this new shit, that, uh, instead of running around blaming me, that this whole thing might just be, not, you know, not just such a simple, but uh--you know?

LEBOWSKI: What in God's holy name are you blathering about?

In the "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" podcast, Chandler's sprawling, often incoherent, episodic story lines are compared to the sprawling, incoherent nature of Los Angeles. It's a city where people came to be in the movies and have had to improvise to survive.

If the dialogue and characters are memorable enough, does the mystery really have to make sense?

Chandler and the Hays Code.

The Big Sleep (1946) was produced under the Motion Picture Production Code. When Philip Marlowe finds Carmen Sternwood and Geiger's body, Carmen is wearing a dressing gown and a pair of earrings. In the novel, "She seemed to be unconscious, but she didn't have the pose of unconsciousness...She was wearing a pair of long jade earrings...She wasn't wearing anything else." In both the film and the novel, it is strongly suggested that she's been posing for pictures. In the novel, she is drugged.

In The Big Lebowski, Maude Lebowski shows The Dude the opening of a movie called Logjammin' in which a cable TV man is greeted at the door by a negligee-wearing Bunny Lebowski. Maude comments, "The story is ludicrous." The character Shari, who just came over to use the shower emerges from the bathroom. Maude shuts off the TV and says, "Lord. You can imagine where it goes from here." The Dude replies, "He fixes the cable?"

Elsewhere in The Big Lebowski, the old-school western The Stranger says, "Just one thing, Dude. D'ya have to use s'many cuss words?"

Was Hays Code Hollywood capable of conveying the sordid suggestions of Raymond Chandler's novel, or did the Coen Brothers, with their increased freedom but self-imposed restraint do a better job?

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